Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 64 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food and facilities management, and employs 160,000 people at 13,500 sites in all 50 U.S. states and Canada.

From food catering to facilities management, Sodexo Universities is the premier food facilities provider for North American universities. Sodexo Universities serves 380 universities in North America and provides a wide range of services including on-site benefits and rewards, including bookstores, housing, dining, housekeeping, and grounds maintenance.

Loyalty360 Silver Award

for Metrics and Measurement for Customer Experience Program 2019

150%

increase in overall reach for Pay it Forward campaign on Facebook and Instagram

1,000,000+

engagements for National Employee Appreciation Day

What they did

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With a target audience of students aged 18 to 24 and their parents, Sodexo Universities knew it needed to find a way to adapt its corporate messaging into a strategy that would resonate and generate meaningful engagement.

But with more than 800 social media accounts across 380 universities, the team needed a partner to help Sodexo Universities advance its social media maturity and roll out a social media strategy to connect effectively and efficiently with its audience at scale. It looked to Hootsuite as a partner to help boost social campaign effectiveness, grow customer satisfaction, and increase return on investment in its social media initiatives.

The support our team has received from Hootsuite has been invaluable as Sodexo Universities begins to build new communities with a brand-new set of eager and social media savvy students.

Wendi Gretz Vice President of Marketing Sodexo Universities

How they did it

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Maintaining strong community connections during a crisis

When lockdowns prevented students from returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sodexo Universities needed to come up with creative and positive ways to continue engaging with students online. As students struggled to adapt to the changing situation, the team focused on sharing helpful resources and uplifting social content that would help students maintain their connections with Sodexo employees and continue to experience some of their favorite aspects of campus life while living off site.

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Making corporate messaging resonate with Gen Z

From the start, one of the biggest challenges Sodexo Universities faced was making its corporate messaging resonate with 18- to 24-year-olds.

Working with Hootsuite, the team at Sodexo Universities received training in industry tools and best practices to build a deeper understanding of its audiences and shape a social media content strategy that focused on delivering highly relevant and personalized content.

The key to Sodexo’s success with this strategy is its 100 on-site marketing managers on campuses across the US. Using the shared content library within Hootsuite’s dashboard, regional marketing managers have access to a centralized calendar each month for content ideas. Individual managers can then customize content to suit their audience and campus, while ensuring content remains standardized and on-brand across all Sodexo Universities accounts.

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Building community and driving engagement with student-created content

From maintaining university grounds and serving meals to checking students into their residence halls, Sodexo’s frontline employees play a central role in the student journey. These employees are the ones having face-to-face interactions with students and local communities, making their voices a critical part of the Sodexo Universities story.

To build trust and engagement with students and local communities, Sodexo has kept a consistent focus on highlighting these employees on social media. Each year, the company runs a campaign called Thx :) for Making My Day!, asking students to submit a photo and thank Sodexo staff for what they do. They also celebrate National Employee Appreciation Day each year on the first Friday in March. To this day, it is still one of the highest performing campaigns, receiving more than 10,000 student submissions and 1 million engagements in 2019.

What's next

As universities around the globe face a rapidly shifting future, one thing is certain: The task of providing a rich and meaningful campus experience will look very different from what came before.

With student life becoming more digital, Sodexo Universities is working with Hootsuite to advance its digital and social maturity, using regular Social Maturity Assessments to identify new opportunities, benchmark progress, and refine its strategy and content.

Through creative and innovative social campaigns—including using virtual tours to welcome students to campus and inviting them to online health and wellness sessions with experts—Sodexo Universities continues to set a new standard in making 21st-century student life a success.

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